A potential NASA mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa may end up hunting for signs of life on the icy, ocean-harboring world.
NASA officials have asked scientists to consider ways that a Europa mission could search for evidence of alien life in the plumes of water vaporthat apparently blast into space from Europa’s south polar region.
These plumes, which NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope spotted in December 2012, provide a possible way to sample Europa’s ocean of liquid water, which is buried beneath the moon’s icy shell, researchers say.
Roughly the size of Earth’s moon, Europa is structurally like a liquor-filled chocolate, with a liquid ocean that could be 62 miles (100 kilometers) deep standing in for the cherry brandy.
“This is our chance” to investigate whether or not life exists on Europa, NASA science chief John Grunsfeld said here Wednesday during a Europa plume workshop at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.
“I just hope we don’t miss this opportunity for lack of ideas.”
Scientists have long thought that that sea is one of the best potential alien incubators in our solar system.
But it wasn’t until recently that sending a spacecraft to study it became more than a theoretical possibility.
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